Five decades down the line, previously unreleased album from robust psychedelic also-runs – who featured a couple familiar faces – sees the light of day.
They have been a mere footnote in British rock annals for too long, but it turned out there was more to this band than the stuff of myth and the brief references in the biographies of PLUTO’s founding guitarist Paul Gardner and RENAISSANCE’s drummer Terry Sullivan who created the collective back in 1965. Even though DRY ICE performed in various incarnations until 1969, recorded documents of their existence are meager, because the only LP the quintet laid down got shelved and gathered dust for 50 years – to be out now, not to change the course of history yet to show the potential they possessed and could realize in more fortunate circumstances.
The group trod a fine line between nascent prog and hard rock. The album’s opener “Clear White Light” – bristling with heavy riffs and given incessant soloing and groovy assault – is set to boggle minds even now, as rhythm guitar is brought to the fore to traverse across stereo panorama, while lead goes wild in the back before relaxing and revealing the band’s flamenco-like bent in “She Gave” where Jeff Novak’s vocals shine amidst romantic rumble. The ensemble may update Diddley beat for the infectious “Running To the Convent” – devised as a single – but their cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” would see Dylan’s philosophy taken to a new level of defiance. Sadly, the collective’s belligerence lacked intensity required to hit the big time.
Instead, the slow-burn, almost molten blues of “Fake It” focuses on the group’s somber harmonies and their handling of instrumental dynamics when drama is on the cards, and “Falling Down” applies a pop sensibility to such adventurous jangle. Still, “Chinese House” refines the quintet’s lysergic jive through several tempo shifts, leaving “Good Friday” to demonstrate the young artists’ jazz leanings, and the acoustic “Laila” – adorned with Ian McDonald‘s gentle flute – to bare their folk influence. There’s a lot of reckless rocking in “Nowhere To Go” and “Untitled ’67” – yet this collection sounds too raw for an album which could be the reason for its shelving, and raga behind “Ashes” could render it all even more incongruous, so the piece had never progressed beyond a demo stage and joined the LP in the archive.
Forgotten for decades, these cuts deserved to be heard, and it’s great they were exposed to an eager ear: better late than never.